Natural Ways to Induce Labour: Fact vs Fiction
Your due date is here and you feel ready to pop…so why have you not gone into labour yet? Though it is usually perfectly normal for pregnancy to continue an extra week or two past the 40-week 'finish line,' it can be frustrating and a bit icky as your feet swell, your back hurts, you cannot sleep, and you feel hot and sweaty.
Past-due mamas: You are not alone! About 35% of pregnancies extend past the due date. Since these mega-pregnancies are so common, women have long searched for ways to naturally induce labour. Here is the lowdown.
Natural Ways to Induce Labour
Getting busy may not be at the top of your to-do list when you are nine months pregnant, but there are reasons to believe that the activity that probably started your pregnancy could be the same one that helps finish it! For one thing, semen contains prostaglandins, which help ripen your cervix. For another, your orgasm creates rhythmic muscles spasms in your vagina, which could possibly help get your contractions going and act as a natural way to induce labour quickly.
Rubbing your nipples or stimulating them with a breast pump releases oxytocin, a hormone that helps your uterus contract. Though nipple stimulation is not a guaranteed fix, a 2005 study did determine that it is beneficial to ripening the cervix, which is necessary for labour. So why hasn’t every about-to-pop pregnant person turned to this technique? Because for manual stimulation to naturally induce labour, you may need to do it for an hour a day…or longer!
Walking to Help Induce Labour Naturally
Taking a walk is a popular way to get things moving—literally. Walking to bring on labour has never been studied, but some mums swear it is one of the best natural ways to induce labour. Whether walking really works or not, it is healthy for your body and reduces stress, so go for it.
If you enjoy the sweet taste of date fruits, then you may want to snack on them in the weeks leading up to your due date. A study showed that women who ate six dates per day in the four weeks leading up to their due dates had higher rates of spontaneous labour and better cervical dilation than those who did not. But cross this one off your list if you have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes—the extra sugar is not worth it.
Acupuncture is one of the oldest remedies for overdue pregnancies. It is said to help ripen the cervix, but medical studies have not yet proven that it actually works as a natural way to induce labour. If acupuncture is already part of your health regimen, it may certainly be worth a try!
If you have ever gotten a pedicure while pregnant, you may have noticed your aesthetician avoiding putting too much pressure on your inner ankle area. That is because it is thought to be an acupressure spot that can cause contractions in your uterus.
Herbs and Supplements
There are many stories about using herbs and supplements to naturally induce labour, such as red raspberry leaf, evening primrose oil, castor oil, and black cohosh, but it is absolutely essential that you speak with your OB or midwife before taking any of these. Most practitioners do not recommend their use. These medicinal herbs have not been proven to work and some may have harmful side effects. For instance, castor oil can cause terrible diarrhea—definitely not what you want when you are on the verge of giving birth!
If you love hot peppers and tolerate them well, then there is no harm in eating them while pregnant as a natural way to induce labour. But there is not real science to back this old wives’ tale. Chowing down on really spicy foods could possibly get labour going by irritating your stomach enough to cause cramping…but who wants that?
The healing touch of massage can raise your body’s level of oxytocin, which is needed for labour to begin. If you enjoy getting a professional prenatal massage—typically laying on your side propped up on pillows—by all means, go for it. Relaxation is always a good idea! If not, cuddling with your partner may have the same beneficial effect.
Also known as a cervical sweep, membrane stripping is a procedure in which your practitioner uses a gloved finger to separate the amniotic sac from the cervix. This process increases production of prostaglandins, which helps induce labour. Membrane stripping does not require medication, and it can help some women avoid a c-section or Pitocin. That said, it can be pretty uncomfortable. Discuss the pros and cons with your practitioner if you are interested.
Final Thoughts on Natural Ways to Induce Labour
While an overdue pregnancy can be so frustrating, keep in mind that due dates are hardly an exact science. In general, it is best to let babies tell us when they are ready to greet the world. However, if you are nearing 42 weeks, your doctor will discuss options with you for moving things along, perhaps with a labour induction. In the meantime, try to rest up in these final days…because soon you will have a new little one to care for!
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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider. Breastmilk is the best source of nutrition for babies. It is important that, in preparation for and during breastfeeding, mothers eat a healthy, balanced diet. Combined breast- and bottle-feeding in the first weeks of life may reduce the supply of a mother's breastmilk and reversing the decision not to breastfeed is difficult. If you do decide to use infant formula, you should follow instructions carefully.